That was 34


Blog, Woodworking / Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

The 34th year of my life was emotional. I was presented with a whole host of new situations, good and bad, which I suddenly needed to cope with. Overall, my gut says that things went well which is all I really ask for.

Ukraine

The Defender of Ukraine

Early in the year, February 24th to be precise, my life was consumed with the wellbeing of the community that made me feel at home ten years ago. The Russian terror machine launched a large-scale invasion of Ukraine. This was on top of the existing, illegal occupation of Ukrainian Crimea.

To say I was in a daze was an understatement. To say I understood everything that my Ukrainian friends and colleagues were going through, even more so. It was unfair and I was angry. Also, I was half a world away feeling helpless as I watched a situation unfold.

Fortunately, to my knowledge, no one that I know has been injured or killed by the terrorists. Many have been displaced. All who I can keep in contact with continue to be safe.

I did my best to rally everyone to the Ukrainian cause and to support their efforts but ultimately nothing felt like enough. It would be a lie to say that I didn’t think about running to Europe and joining the fight to defend this beautiful country. That is a sentiment I do not share with United States efforts abroad.

Fortunately, the world came to Ukraine’s aid. Support has been given to beat back the Russians. Furthermore, it is quite fortunate that the Russian army turned out to be so ill-equipped for an invasion it planned. I still remember watching for updates on the stalled column of vehicles approaching Kyiv, attempting to surround the city and take the capitol. Then, after weeks, that column started to retreat. Ukraine started group, coordinate, and push back on their invaders. Any progress Russia made was due to their surprise attack, not their ability on the battlefield.

Now, as we are in the ninth month of the war, Ukraine continues to be a free nation and they fight for their rights as Russia continues with its feeble attempts of global posturing. Ukraine wins battles, liberates cities and is united against the foreign invaders.

What started out for me as heartbreak, confusion and anger has now turned into hope, resilience, and inspiration. I continue to support Ukraine and hope that someday soon I can return to walk on the land I adopted.

Woodworking

A weird thing happened this year. Well, it started last year. A friend of mine asked if I could make him a game board for a game I had never heard of. I looked it up, and it seemed simple enough. The game is Pai Sho and shows up in a few scenes of the show Avatar The Last Airbender. Once finished, I posted some photos of it to Instagram and thought nothing of it. Then someone messaged me and asked me to make him one. That is when I agreed to make a complete stranger on the internet a board game. He took a leap of faith on me, and I took a leap of faith that he’d pay for my effort.

He paid and invited me to join the community he runs for the game. While there, I made it known I could make some custom boards. Would you believe it, other people liked my work and asked for their own boards? I set up a page on my shop website where people can order the custom boards. I’m proud to say, I’ve gotten a fair amount of praise for my work. Additionally, I’ve made a handful of sales which have recouped the cost of running a few websites over the years. Heck, I think I was even able to “pay back” the money I spent to build my CNC last year.

As a result, I made frequent trips to the lumber yard to buy exotic woods to make game boards with. Every time I had to state out loud, as though I couldn’t believe it each time, someone was paying me to buy fancy wood.

I’ve also been working on other projects throughout the year. Doing so gives me a sense of calm (though unfinished projects tend to pile on the anxiety, worrying if and when I’ll get around to finishing them). I managed to build a coffee grinder (following a kit), a handful of jigs, a plethora of picture frames, hooks for dog leashes, a vase, garden boxes, some trays, an end table, jack-o-lantern boxes, and my most recent project is a baby mobile.

Looking at the whole list all in one place, it’s a wonder I was able to get through all of those things this past year. I look forward to building more in the year to come, as it truly makes me happy to make things with my hands.

Baby

As you may have guessed, we’re working on making something else this year. Ellie and I are expecting to welcome our first baby girl just after the new year. Finding out a baby is on the way brings with it many emotions. There’s joy, fear, shock worry, excitement, impatience, and glee to name a few.

I have been looking forward to being a dad for many years now. The stars aligned this year and, well, I guess I have a whole new life ahead of me.

The number of things that happen when you tell people you’re going to be a father is astounding. They know it will be a boy because x, or it has to be a girl because y. Are you sad that it is a girl? What will you name her? You have to buy this item. Your kid is going to be a handful. She’ll be beautiful. Obviously, she must be a scientist. You don’t have all the stuff. Babies don’t need anything. You won’t sleep ever again. Dads don’t do anything.

Look. I’m excited. I have no idea what this little version of me and Ellie will be like, but I know she’ll be perfect in whatever way she chooses.

I’ve toyed with the idea of documenting my deep dive into parenting here, but that might be a lot to ask while I have a burping, pooping, baby girl around. Even once a month seems like it could be overwhelming. Maybe I will, maybe I won’t.

Work

Work is usually pretty much the same thing for me. I show up, I have meetings, I work on things and then I’m done. Occasionally, a fun new project comes in that is exhausting and time consuming and pushes my stress levels above comfortable, but mostly it is the same old thing each week.

Sometime in the past year, I decided to try to change that. I wanted to take my career to the next level. I even interviewed at another company and was offered the job but didn’t accept it as it wasn’t a bump up in salary and the future prospects weren’t clear. Even before that series of interviews, I wanted more so I started looking for more work to do and be in charge of more important things. Granted, this all came with the caveat that I was busier than ever, and that stress level was higher than it needed to be more often that it should be.

Finally, though, things seem to be falling into place. Over the summer our general manager resigned and opened the door to a shift up in positions. And for once, I feel like I was in the right place at the right time. I took advantage of the openings to float my name and get things lined up for what I want next. At this point, nothing is guaranteed, but I have interviewed for a director position, and I was initially optimistic about it. The time since interviewing has dragged on, so I’m starting to turn pessimistic about it. And if we’re honest, I’ll happily move on if I’m passed over for this role.

What is important is here is not whether I earned a promotion or not but that I’ve seen a lot of concentrated growth in myself in the past year. There is a foreign amount of confidence and frankness in my workplace conversations that I cannot say I’ve ever had before. To be truthful, I cannot even say where it truly stems from. Maybe it has to do with a baby on the way and the desire to set her up as best as I can. Maybe I see my friends moving forward and I think I should be too. Maybe I’m just bored at work and need a new challenge.

Whatever it is, I feel like I’m on the top of my game and there isn’t anything that can stop this new version of Danny getting what he wants in his career.

Running

I spent a good portion of the year on my feet again, but by my calculations it was even more than I’ve ever run before in a year. Once it warmed up enough, I was out running five miles a day, five days a week. Going from running a marathon last year to not running cold turkey (though I did do a very cold Turkey Trot following the marathon) I was antsy to get back on the road. Usually, I alternate between running and biking, but I think I left the biking out altogether this year.

I do love running, I always have but something in recent years lit a fire under me. I like training for the marathon, knowing I have a goal and an end date to meet that goal. I also like that running helps me meditate and that it gives me dedicated time to “read” books. Audiobooks propelled me through the mileage this year. I read some doozies too as I was able to cross War and Peace, The Brothers Karamazov, and Moby Dick off my reading list all in the span of a year. Plus, a whole host of other books were read as I counted the miles.

Coming off of last year, I was worried every time I went out for a run that I was going to reinjure my Achilles tendon. Fortunately, that did not happen. I believe it is back to its full strength again.

The marathon I only finished a little over a week ago and I’m both quite pleased and disappointed with the result. I’m pleased because for the first 22 miles, I believe I averaged a 7:30 min/mile pace. Most of my training runs came in no faster than 8:00 min/mile. Where I was disappointed was in the last four miles and ultimately the time, I took to complete the marathon. If I remember correctly, I was just 19 seconds slower than last year. It frustrates me because I know I ran a better race than last year, and I was far more prepared that I was last year. I know what went wrong and therefore I know what I need to work on.

Since I am, apparently, dedicated I already signed up to run the marathon again next year. I think I’ll be training with a baby in a running stroller and she and I will be training heavily on the hills because that is what I believe killed my last four miles this year. Wish me luck.

Goals

As always, I like to assess how the goals I set last year panned out. My main goal was to get better at cleaning and keeping the house clean. To be honest, I really did a poor job of this. I started out strong but lost steam fairly early in the year. I think that the goal was too big and broad. What ended up happening is that I focused on keeping the kitchen clean, which is great. However, living and working in a home makes for a kitchen that always needs cleaning. It is a full-time job to keep the counters clear and the table clean. I think only more recently I got into a rhythm that helps me keep up with the chore.

For this coming year, I’ve thought about a few things that I could approach as a goal but all of them come back to me questioning if I’ll have time to dedicate to such a goal with a baby floating around. I don’t want to set a goal that is too hard that I just end up dropping it. I want to set something that I can achieve, if I set my mind towards it.

That being said, I’m toying with two goals at the moment. Goal number one, I would like to get into a better habit of publishing products and articles on my other website, as that website has an opportunity to be a supplemental income for my family. This one is a hard one to commit to with a baby on the way. Goal number two provides more flexibility on when, where, and how I achieve it, but I would like to get into a habit of meditation. I think mentally it would be nice to have dedicated time to calm my mind and sort through thoughts. Additionally, I spend so much idle time watching and reading and just trying to consume more and more and more. It would be great if I can further limit that time and focus on myself in silence.

Writing that paragraph almost convinced me outright that goal number two is the way to go. I still want to work on number one, but that one will be easier to drop as life hits.

That’s all for me. I’ll be happy to put parts of 34 behind me and I eagerly await many parts of what 35 has in store. Check back from time to time, maybe I’ll have converted this into a Daddy Blog.

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